Our readers talk back.
A Textbook Case
In Michael May's editorial "Ignorant Design at the SBOE" (July 18), Mr. May chooses to be ignorant by [sic] the hysteria of those preaching for limiting scientific information on evolution in our children's textbooks. I'm wondering if he even attended the [July 9] State Board of Education meeting. I doubt it, since no board member or the three testifiers (who were advocating following the board's own rules and policy of teaching both the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses to theories and hypotheses) ever mentioned religion, creation science, or intelligent design. However, there were 27 testifiers who all ranted about religion being put into textbooks, but, of course, could not name which board member or which textbook was advocating this. The meeting is taped and available to the public. I would strongly advise your readers to get a copy of it from the Texas Education Agency.
Mr. May also misquoted me. I read directly from the TEKS, which say nothing about "exploring" scientific strengths and weaknesses. The TEKS state "analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to the strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information."
Also, Mr. May spent three paragraphs talking about Dr. Francis Beckwith, saying he was a Christian philosopher and referring to him as a creation scientist. In fact, Dr. Beckwith is not a creationism advocate at all. Why not quote Dr. Beckwith directly and accurately like he did for the opposing viewpoint, Dr. Hillis?
It is hard to get the facts right when those who call themselves journalists don't bother to interview those they are making outrageous allegations about.
Why is Mr. May being intellectually dishonest with his readers by not citing, for his readers, actual quotes, names of people, board members, textbook pages, or specific instances relating to his outrageous charges? By doing so, Mr. May has aligned himself with those groups who would also advocate intellectual dishonesty with our school children by censoring out all scientific weaknesses to Darwinian evolution.
Texas State Board of Education member, District 6
[Michael May replies: All quotations in the article, including those of SBOE member Terri Leo, were transcribed directly from a tape of the board proceedings. The word "explore" did not appear in the direct quotation from Leo, but accurately paraphrases her remarks that followed. Francis Beckwith was not identified as a creationist, but as a "Darwinian critic" -- which he certainly is -- and he was quoted accurately and at greater length than David Hillis. I don't think it unfair to characterize Beckwith as a "Christian philosopher," although Leo apparently considers that an "outrageous allegation." Professor Beckwith is the associate director of the Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University, and his many publications (of which Leo seems unaware) argue positions entirely consistent with Christian philosophy. Finally, "those groups" that Leo accuses of "censoring" textbooks are mainstream biology teachers wishing to maintain the scientific integrity of their textbooks.]
Clear Is the Color of the Law
The law is only one color ... C-L-E-A-R! Was Owens ["Austin @ Large," June 27] breaking the law ... yes! Was King breaking the law ... yes!!!! Any questions?
Questioning Clark-Madison's Common Sense
It irritates me to read Mike Clark-Madison write about the repeal of the smoking ban as a blow for common sense and free enterprise ["Austin @ Large," July 18]. As a nonsmoker and former musician that played quite a few club dates in Austin, I must say that a smoking ban is the common sense and right thing to do. When I played, the level of smoke in the clubs was intense, leaving me with burning eyes, stinky hair and clothing, and god knows what it did to my lungs. I was lucky I didn't have to work in the clubs night after night, unlike the bartenders and waitpersons. I wonder if Mike Clark-Madison also thinks reinstating smoking on airlines is the common sense thing to do. Or in those damn hospitals that won't let people smoke inside. Would Mike prefer an enterprising hospital that allowed surgeons to smoke in the operating room?
Proud of Oldziey
Thanks for mentioning the other musicians in the music piece last week ["La Musica y El Director," July 25]. One person who didn't make it into the article but deserves special notice is George Oldziey. He's worked on my last three scores, and is a talented composer/orchestrator/conductor as well as an Austin local. Someone to be proud of for sure.
Protect the American Worker
Thank you for your piece on the pending corporate asbestos bailout bill currently pending before the Texas Legislature ["Capitol Chronicle," July 25]. My firm has been zealously representing victims poisoned by corporate neglect for many years now. The lengths to which these companies (many of whom are supporters of the bill) have gone to conceal the harm they have caused and the relative ease with which the harm could have been avoided is truly saddening. My firm and I have amassed a collection of confidential memos, internal corporate documents, and depositions of corporate witnesses that leave little doubt that the companies now seeking to escape liability were among those that stole the health and lives of countless American workers all to improve the bottom line.
Should you ever wish to further research this issue, please do not hesitate to contact me. The evidence is compelling, the harm is immeasurable, and the current effort to avoid responsibility is unforgivable.
Troy D. Chandler
Power to the People
I was so glad to read Phil Brandt's letter ["Postmarks," July 25] concerning Patrick Rose and how Rose is all about helping the Democrat Party but not doing the people's business. I am ready to join arm in arm with Mr. Brandt to make sure these party wonks are not re-elected to office at election time.
I am confident Mr. Brandt will also join me in seeing that Rick Perry goes back to private life. He has done nothing for the people of Texas and seems only interested in granting the wishes of Tom DeLay. Five hundred thousand Texas children will be without all or part of their mental and health insurance come September.
Yes Mr. Brandt, your point is well taken. Let's join together to get rid of all politicians who only have their self-interests or those of their party at heart.
Drop that Republican label you branded yourself with. It does not become you.
Welcome to the world of Independent voters. Back away from that R lever. The state of Texas can no longer afford it.
Exposing Austin's Social Ills
I greatly appreciate your truthful exposure of Austin's social ills, including our tight job market. For certain segments of the population, finding employment seems to be even more difficult. For over a year, I have applied for many administrative jobs for which I was well qualified. Whenever I checked to see who was hired instead of me, it was always someone much younger. I even tried to find work at places such as Starbucks, but Austin's youthful work culture is not only unwelcoming to mature individuals but seems to be pushing us out to the margins.
In Austin in the 1950s, I experienced racism, in the 1960s sexism, and now it appears I am facing ageism. The sad irony here is that for the past 30 years I worked in human services jobs while fighting for human and civil rights for others! Human compassion and fairness dictate that those who have been working and contributing to society for many years should continue to be treated as equal. In the 19th century, my great-grandparents moved from El Paso with hopes that the family would have a better life in friendly Austin. They would be shocked to see how uncaring Austin has become today. My children and I can only hope that at least a few empathetic, nonprejudicial employers still exist in Austin.
Shut Ventura Up
I promised myself I would not write again because I always complain about the same thing: [Michael] Ventura writes every single column about the Iraq war and how stupid everyone else is. Then I realized, according to his latest, "Hero vs. Superhero" ["Letters at 3AM," July 25], I actually have no original thoughts at all, I am just emulating what I see on TV and in popular culture; I mistakenly believe that just by writing letters I can heroically get him to shut the fuck up. After reading this last column, I realize now that I am a loser who merely thought I was right when, philosophically speaking, there is no "right" and no heroes at all. So why bother? I blame society.
Ventura's Soulful Voice
I just want to let you know how much I enjoy "Letters at 3AM." Ever since I came to Austin in 1994, I have picked up a copy of your publication every week, primarily to read Ventura's essays. His search for and exposition of the truth, his honesty, and his soul are in every one. I relocated to Houston just under a year ago but still enjoy his work on your Web site. Thank you for giving him a voice all these years.
Ventura Is an Idiot
Upon reading the July 25 issue of the Chronicle, I was shocked and devastated to discover that Michael Ventura is an absolute, unmitigated idiot (as demonstrated by "Hero vs. Superhero" ["Letters at 3AM"]). He apparently considers Hollywood's current overdose on comic-book superhero movies (Spider-Man, X-Men, etc.) to be a dangerous influence on our children, who might be given a dangerous and misconceived sense of reality by these movies.
Message to Michael: It is not Hollywood's job to educate our children! That responsibility belongs to their parents, their teachers, and any members of the clergy who aren't pedophiles. It is not Sam Raimi's responsibility to inform children that they can't gain superpowers by getting bitten by a radioactive spider. In fact, any children who actually believe that to be true are probably doomed to be hopeless morons (like Ventura).
Matthew K. Diedrich
Ventura Makes Reader Happy
A search for Mr. Ventura ["Letters at 3AM"] led me to austinchronicle.com. Reading him here this afternoon reminded me of what someone once told me: that reading Nietzsche -- Twilight of the Idols, in particular -- makes him happy. Reading Michael Ventura makes me happy. Please tell him.
Thanks to Michael King
Thanks Michael King for the excellent interview with the filmmakers Ms. Bartley and Mr. O'Briain ["The Camera Is Mightier Than the ...," March 7].
It's playing at the Egyptian Theatre here in Hollywood, Calif., and I will definitely go see it.
The ideas about a media coup made me think about the tortured coverage of the anti-war demonstrations around the country and how it was minimized during the run-up to attacking Iraq.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Don't Follow Savlov's Advice
Mark Guszak thinks that one of the best movie reviewers in the country is Mark Savlov ["Postmarks," July 18]? Yeah, I guess the movie Twister was really deserving of four stars. I lost two hours of my life and over $5 on that piece of crap. Thanks Mark Savlov, you sorry bastard. Four stars? Twister? Four stars?? ... I know, let it go, just let it go.
Thank you, I feel better,
Plastic Bottles Suck
It is amazing to see how many people on the street are sucking on plastic water bottles. Good for the economy, bad for the environmental trash accumulation.
Must be a reversion to juvenile feeding behavior.
Blessed to Have Benson
A Grammy-winning artist, Ray Benson ["The Cult of Ray," July 18] is the ambassador of Texas music and has served the Recording Academy through a myriad of programs and activities that have touched the lives of countless members of the Texas and national music community. While that is important, probably the best part of having Ray involved with our organization is the generous and hard working spirit, which he instills in all of our elected leadership. Congrats on a fine piece about a terrific professional music maker.
The Recording Academy
Thanks for Foley Write-Up
Thanks so very much for your wonderful write-up on the Blaze Foley documentary project in the July 25 edition ["TCB"]. Just one mistake I'd like to correct, we've interviewed Merle but have not interviewed Willie (the pair recorded a Foley song, "If I Could Only Fly," in 1987). We do hope to have an opportunity to talk with Mr. Nelson about this "drunken angel" song.
My Truth in Your Reporting, Please
How about some truth in reporting? Pro-life ("i.e., anti-choice") is fair, but what spin and chutzpah to not include the same moniker for "pro-choice" ("anti-life")?
Besides missing the fact of the conservative position that abortions are wrong for moral reasons, you slam the politicians who hold these positions from moral conviction and not for being anti-woman ["Fighting a Rising Tide," July 25]. There are many women (and increasingly so) that hold the same pro-life position. Why? Because of the truth of the argument that human life begins at conception, and not at the departure of the baby from the womb to life outside the womb.
This would be almost hilarious as to the articles missing the point that California (the People's Republic of California, the liberal bastion of the USA) has the same law that you hang on the conservatives for approving. Check out the Scott Peterson case, and that he is not only being charged with the murder of his wife, but also their unborn child, not the murder of a fetus, or a thing. The child was a child, and not some mutated creature that miraculously becomes human the day that he or she exits the womb.
Would love to see some truth in reporting from your paper once in a while. Since you are the alternative paper.
Texas Republican Party Platform, 1998 (www.netexas.net/lstandlee/platform.html):
"Redistricting -- The Party supports an amendment to the Texas Constitution requiring that all electoral subdivisions within the state of Texas be geographically compact with approximately equal populations. We demand that our Texas legislators correct the problem of the costly proliferation of voting districts. Redistricting should restore reason and neighborhood integrity with due regard given to maintaining existing communities of like interest without violating existing political boundaries (i.e., county lines, city and town limits, etc.)."
Texas Republican Party Platform, 2000 (www.rlctx.org/RLCTX/Texas%20Republican%20Party%20Platform%202000.htm):
"Redistricting -- The Party urges the 2001 Legislature to enact fair and reasonable redistricting bills that duly recognize existing neighborhood, and county boundaries along with communities of interest."
Texas Republican Party Platform, 2002 (www.io.com/~carlsch/GOPTXPlatform2002.htm):
Curiously, redistricting is not mentioned in the 2002 platform. Perhaps the party felt the issue was properly moot until after the 2010 census, or perhaps the party felt that maintaining the same language as expressed in the 1998 and 2000 platforms would not comport with plans for redistricting in 2003. In either event, the redistricting maps produced by the Republicans in both the 2003 regular session and the 2003 special session are drastically at odds with the most recent stated beliefs of the party.
One Reader's Favorite Shaved Ice
Last week's "Second Helpings" column [July 18] was a great reference for folks like me that eagerly seek out that quintessential summer treat: the shaved ice. These places seem to be popping up on every corner these days, but there are some of us that will continue to go out of the way for a really, really good shaved ice. In fact, you completely missed my very favorite stand at the corner of Anderson and Mullen Drive (on Anderson, between Burnet and Lamar, in the United Rent All parking lot). The super-friendly husband and wife team that operate this seasonal stand have been doing so for a couple of years now, and friends and I have been frequenting the stand for just as long. We usually count the days until the spring break opening! Their ice is light, airy ... almost creamy. Not an ice chunk to be found -- it is to die for. We asked once about the secret, and the proprietor admitted he keeps his ice much colder than most places (10 degrees) and sends his blades to the manufacturer for sharpening (vs. doing it locally). However they do it, I'm just glad they do -- maintaining my summer fix has never been so delicious!
Perrymandering Goes Unchecked
The ongoing redistricting power grab shows what we can expect if Texas (or the nation at large) becomes a true one-party state -- an unchecked tyranny of the majority. This Republican "perrymandering" is being pursued in the primary interests of national party bosses like Tom DeLay and Karl Rove and has nothing to do with Texas residents except to play us for saps and deny many of us the right to elect our own congressman. In Austin's case, we will be carved up like a turkey, while Speaker Craddick gets a district for Midland to fuel his own ambitions. When the Democrats stymie these plans, the goalposts keep getting moved back. This is as shameless and dictatorial as anything Santa Anna did and by rights ought to result in open protests in the streets by now, at the very least. Since Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, and Speaker Craddick, with their illicit partisan games and wasting of public funds, have broken their oaths to serve the citizens of Texas, they should be removed from office. I call for their immediate resignations or impeachments.
Apparently Mr. Metz ["Postmarks," July 25] believes that we'd all be safer if everyone carried guns around. His examples of the Columbine shootings (1999), Luby's cafeteria tragedy (1991), and 9/11 flight hijackings (2001) are all instances where one must question whether having armed civilians present would have lessened the amount of bloodshed or merely resulted in additional injuries to innocent bystanders (remember the concept of "friendly fire"?).
Is he really arguing, in the case of the 9/11 flight hijackings, that armed passengers would have prevented the resulting tragedies? I seem to remember an episode of All in the Family where Archie Bunker argued that (and I'm paraphrasing here) one way to cut down on the number of hijackings would be to arm all the passengers -- seems logical to me ...
The tiresome arguments by the NRA and other groups/individuals that proponents of gun control are just out to take away their "sporting weapons" is really lame -- how many sportsmen really go hunting with semi-automatic assault rifles and/or handguns? Those types of weapons are clearly intended for hunting only two-legged, upright-walking, sentient beings (i.e., Homo sapiens).
They also argue that if we make guns illegal, then only criminals will have guns. Funny how in the UK, where handguns are illegal and even the police don't carry guns (except for terrorist response teams, etc.) the number of shooting deaths each year is only a fraction of those in the U.S.
Redistricting Rammed Down Our Throats
We don't know where Osama or Saddam is, but we here in Texas sure know where Tom DeLay is. His fingerprints and boot prints are all over our Texas maps. And all over our Texas legislators, governor, and lieutenant governor. I would be referring to the redistricting maps that DeLay is trying to ram down our throats in this, an off-season time for redistricting. Over 90% of the people speaking at redistricting hearings are against this redistricting process. It's absolutely amazing to watch Republican senators go completely against the will of their constituents.
Oh, and it's also known where the weapons of mass destruction are. The weapons of mass destruction of the U.S. economy are sitting in the Oval Office. Just go look if you don't believe me.
Blood for Oil
As of this writing, there are now 244 line-of-duty deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq. In exchange, we have gotten zero weapons of mass destruction, zero days of democracy in Iraq, zero Iraqi connections to al Qaeda, and zero captured or killed dictators. The lives of 244 of this nation's young people are a high price to pay for a pack of lies from the White House and a contract to rebuild Iraqi oil infrastructure that will benefit nobody outside of Halliburton. Support the troops, bring 'em home! For more information see www.veteransforpeace.org on the Web.
At the beginning of the Iraq/U.S. conflict, several U.S. soldiers were captured and held as POWs. Al Jazeera reporters filmed and photographed these POWs and broadcasted their images on their news network.
The United States was shocked. Government officials publicly chastised aJ, and U.S. news stations lambasted aJ as being a shoddy organization. The reason given was that filming and photographing POWs was against journalistic ethics. Al Jazeera soon offered this retort:
"We take no joy from showing these images. We mean absolutely no disrespect to the brave soldiers who have lost their lives, to their families and friends, and to those who continue to fight. We honor them in our souls, and thank them for their sacrifice and trust. At the end of the day, however, we are an information service. These pictures vividly demonstrate the cost of war in Iraq upon our beloved children. If you would know what war is, what this war has become, then you must look and understand. May God be with these men and women, and with their families, and with us all."
Days later, the AJ Baghdad reporting station, clearly marked on U.S. maps as a "don't fire on" location, was shot at by U.S. tanks and warplanes. One reporter died. This was the second time the U.S. accidentally shot at -- point blank -- an AJ news outpost. Patriotic computer hackers soon shut down the aJ Web site, and replaced the AJ homepage with an American flag.
Earlier this week, the U.S. confirmed the deaths of Saddam's two sons. Within 24 hours, there were Web sites on CNN, Fox, and other stations solely devoted to the pictures of the dead brothers.
Were journalistic ethics compromised in showing the pictures of the brothers?
Were journalistic ethics compromised in showing the Iraqi/Afghan POWs in Guantanamo Bay?
Justice for All
Half of American women are sexually assaulted at least once in their lives, and more than half as many men admit to sexual assault in survey after survey. Our nation's most underprosecuted crime can be attributed only to the status quo protected by the powerful.
In the hysterical voices of talk show hosts who fight for the rights of "role models" to murder their wives and rape other women year after year, I hear the echoes of the prison gates that they know should have slammed behind them.
Smart Growth Not Dead
In the Chronicle recently was the statement, "OK, Smart Growth is dead" ["Austin@Large," July 4]. That's a nice spin, and how much truth is there to it? Would it not be more truthful to say that our City Council has decided to play with semantics and just not use the words "Smart Growth?"
To simply say "Smart Growth is dead" in Austin is like saying the Smart Growth practice of thrusting the poor into a bidding war with the rich for housing in Austin is dead. Is this kind of Smart Growth stealth housing discrimination against low and middle income Austinites in the core city neighborhoods dead? Is targeting low-income neighborhoods through a neighborhood planning team's rezoning and up-zonings for further property tax increases dead?
Has the city stopped trying to force development along light rail or commuter rail lines, is that Smart Growth practice dead? Is the use of Smart Growth-styled incentives packages (bribes of taxpayers' money) to entice new businesses to move to Austin dead? Are all those problems caused and exasperated by Smart Growth policies thrust on the common man in Austin by City Council dead?
From an article on City Hall's "Smart Growth" program in that other newspaper in Austin is this quote:
"Nevertheless, the City Council undid the program at a meeting on June 12 and replaced it with a far more extensive economic development policy that will in part allow for incentive packages larger than could ever be awarded under Smart Growth. Although city leaders say the new policy incorporates many of the tenets of Smart Growth, they generally avoid those exact words."
Austin's Smart Growth/discrimination is not dead.
An Atheist Speaks Out
Being new to Austin a few years ago I was amazed at how conservative the town was. I was told that Austin was much more progressive (liberal) than the rest of Texas. I am grateful I moved here then. I have been a Chronicle reader for a while and really looked forward to the article on ignorant design by Mike May. I stumbled on a reader's comments about how liberal the Chronicle and even the Statesman are. I have submitted no less than seven opinions to the Statesman all within their guidelines. Of the two that did print the first was so edited from my theme I wished they hadn't printed it. The most recent printed as I left out my usual view.
I am an atheist and if anyone thinks the Statesman will print the words "God is nothing but a myth" you are joking. In some of the ignorant design opinions printed in the Statesman they mentioned God wasn't part of science. The point being it is making a statement that God exists. I will continue to read the Chronicle because free speech is what the right-wingers want, their free speech and the Chronicle doesn't just print that. God is an imaginary friend.
Keep Austin Employed
I have a beef with the Keep Austin Weird campaign. I am a dedicated supporter but now find myself a little frustrated over the whole ordeal.
My husband and I have spent our hard-earned dollars (and barely earned due to the faltering economy and job market) supporting local businesses, motivated by our deep-seated belief in the virtue of small businesses. When we found ourselves without jobs this summer, we wanted to continue that support by seeking employment by Austin's own, as opposed to Wal-Mart or someplace like that. Sadly, many of these businesses turned us away, due to our lack of experience. (Keep in mind that the jobs we were applying for were either food-service jobs, retail, merchandising, etc., so nothing requiring a degree in rocket science.) So where do we get experience? We tried other Austin-owned joints, to no avail.
Out of desperation we turned to large chain restaurants and stores, various corporate-owned institutions, and (brace yourself) telemarketing for employment. We gave in to the dark side because Austin's weird workforce was not strong enough (to keep us employed, that is).
Keeping Austin weird requires a two-way, give-and-take relationship between local businesses and the consumers. I hope consumers continue to give to these local institutions plenty of business. As a Keep Austin Weird consumer, I would also love to take a little by asking these businesses to give us Austinites the jobs we need.
'In Thanks' to Ventura
In response to Michael Ventura's article, "In Thanks" (July 11), I think he hit the nail right on the head. So often people, especially fellow conservatives, seem to view things in a very narrow perspective. The argument Ventura makes in support of the Lawrence v. Texas decision is really in line with conservative thought.
If we are intellectually honest and truly advocate the notion of limiting the power and scope of government, the Lawrence decision supports this notion. Furthermore, I must reiterate Ventura's position of thanks from the nongay community, because the point is, if government can do it to you, they can do it to anyone.
Ventura's application and knowledge of the Ninth and 10th amendments is interesting, in that former senator and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole went around on a daily basis citing these amendments as the basis for a limiting the power and scope of government. Let's be honest, either we are for or against limiting the power of government in our personal lives. Too often, especially among blind-following social conservatives, limiting government is great when it is in regard to something they oppose. However, when it's something they are in favor of, they always seem to strongly advocate more government intrusion. Such is the case for all the proposed constitutional amendments. They want less government on one hand but more government on the other. They can't have it both ways.